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A Virtual Seminar


The Constant Fire: 8 Points to Walk Away with

1. Warfare is not the only way to tell Science and Religion’s story. The history of Science and Religion is far more complicated and subtle than simply a narrative of deadly warfare between the two sides. The metaphor of war is a relatively recent creation. It was conditioned by historical events with the main players having quite specific reasons for telling the story in that specific way

2. The emphasis on results in Science and Religion is misguided and sterile. The traditional public Science and Religion debate, the one we think of as the only meaning of Science and Religion, focuses on results. It is an endless comparison of what science says vs. what some particular religion’s doctrine holds. The emphasis on results misses a deeper and more fecund relationship between Science and Spiritual endeavor.

3. Religious Experience is more important than religious doctrine in thinking about connections with Science. The human phenomena of Religion begin with the very personal domain of Religious Experience. The emphasis on experience, rather than articles of faith or creed or dogma, provides a fundamentally different starting point for looking at what occurs at the root of spiritual life and its relation to Science.

4. Science, in its practice and its fruits, manifests hierophanies. Religious Experience is an encounter with the sacred character of being. The sacred is the opposite of the profane, “everyday”, experience of life. Hierophanies can be identified as the location where the sacred erupts into our awareness, illuminating our experience of the world with a distinct quality of awe and reverence. Science provides us with hierophanies. It is the means to reveal the miracle that lies beneath every unconsidered moment. In this way Science is a gateway to an experience of the sacred.

5. Science functions as Myth providing hierophanies through sacred narratives of the Cosmos and our place within it. Our species’ first attempt to make sense of the world was through Myth. In Myth’s sacred narratives we draw closer to the world’s unseen but deeply felt powers. Science now addresses these same issues through its own narratives and in doing so recalls and recovers Myth’s imperatives.

6. Science’s roots in Myth reveal its living connections with Spiritual Endeavor. The capacity for Science to manifest hierophanies through its narratives has its roots in Myth. Thus science is deeply rooted in the Mythic tradition of human being. Modern religious life can be followed back to the same root. Following this root Science and Spiritual Endeavor can be drawn into their proper, parallel and active complementarity.

7. Transcendent realities may or may not exist but are not necessary for Science to be recognized as a means to apprehend the sacred. Debates about the nature of a platonic realm in mathematics, or the existence of trans-historical archetypes in Myth, will continue for a long time. The same is true of questions concerning the existence of The Sacred as opposed to a sacred character of experience. Is there some Eternal Truth “out there” external to us or is it all just in our heads? These debates do not need to be resolved for us to begin developing a language that harmonizes Science and Spiritual Endeavor. It is the open-ended quality of our lives, the fundamental mystery of our presence, which animates the effort in both domains.

8. The braiding of Science and Spiritual Endeavor through their common roots in Myth can support a global ethos for the application of Science as we pass through the bottleneck of the next century. The development of science has given humanity powers to alter its own habit on a planetary scale. Thus, for the first time, we are forced to think of ourselves as a single species and act as such. Our abilities to marshal collective action will fail unless they are accompanied by narratives which provide meaning and illuminate sustaining values.

Concluding Notes

The traditional debate between science and religion has been locked in outdated conflict for more than 100 years. The emphasis in this debate has always been on results in the sense of what science says vs. what the tenets of a particular religion espouse. In my talk I tried to explicate a different alternative in which experience and aspiration form the basis of a dialogue between science and spiritual endeavor.

I was happy to find such a receptive and thoughtful audience in the WoK group. The ability to project the PowerPoint into the virtual space meant that the graphics and text I would normally rely on could accompany my virtual presentation. While some latency issues made it a bit difficult to page through the PowerPoint one can see how future virtual meetings and conferences could function to give users the full capacity to exchange ideas via "tele-presence".

The question and answer period after the talk was no different in principle from that in a "live" presentation. The questions were quite helpful to me in my thinking and some of it was included in the final version of the book.

Adam Frank

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